The Nigerian Islamist terror group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls, vowing to sell the girls into slavery.
Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller speaking on Channel 4 News revealed more about events in Nigeria.
He said he has been in regular contact with the government negotiator and that events are moving quickly, perhaps towards a release of at least some of the schoolgirls.
“The majority of these schoolgirls appear, according the negotiator, to still be alive.
“It seems that Boko Haram is keen to do some sort of deal, and they particularly want to see the 18 girls who they claim are critically ill to be released urgently for medical attention.”
So far the group has told the negotiator that three of the girls have died but it hasn’t said how. Nor is it clear how many of the girls actually have as some have reportedly been trafficked into neighbouring countries or forced into marriage.
“It does seem that though that the group wants to get rid of them and send them back to the government, what we don’t know is what they want in return”
Speaking about the girls, who were kidnapped on April 15 from their secondary school in the village of Chibok, Borno state, the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video: “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”
The declaration is the first time that the group, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, has admitted its part in the matter. President Goodluck Jonathan has previously claimed that he was unable to negotiate with the sect until they claimed responsibility, although Channel 4 News has learned that his administration has been engaging the services of a negotiator.
The precise number of girls who were kidnapped remains unclear. Police say that more than 300 were taken from the Chibok Government Secondary School, packed onto the back of trucks and driven away. About 53 escaped, and 223 remain in Boko Haram’s custody, according to officers.
Protest groups demanding action and the return of the girls have sprung up across the world, with ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ rallies held in Nigeria, the US and in London. The Pakistani girls’ education campaigner, Malala Yusufzai, has also joined their campaign.
On Sunday, authorities in Abuja arrested a leader of one of the protest groups. Naomi Mutuah and Saratu Ndirpaya were called to a meeting with the first lady Patience Jonathan, but were arrested soon afterwards.
“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market.” Boko Haram
Ms Ndirpaya was released in the early hours of the following morning, but Ms Mutuah remains in police custody. Another protester, Hosea Abana, told Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper that the women were arrested after Ms Mutua was alleged to have falsely claimed to be the mother of one of the abducted girls.
Expressing his shock at allegations that family members have lied about their relatives being abducted, he said: “Two of my nieces and one of my cousin sisters was among the girls kidnapped.”
Their colleagues claimed that they were arrested on orders of Nigeria’s first lady, however, her office denied this.
The girls’ abductors have been in regular contact with a government intermediary, who has told Channel 4 News that Boko Haram has threatened to kill hostages in the event of any attempt to rescue them by the Nigerian military.
Reports have emerged that some of the missing girls have been sold as brides across Nigeria’s border with Chad and Cameroon for as little as $12.
The girls’ parents fear that some may have been used as sex slaves for the terror group, amid concerns that some may have been subjected to extreme sexual violence.
The intermediary has told Channel 4 News that three teenage captives have died, and 18 others are sick. It is not known how the girls are said to have died.
The Northern States Christian and Elders Forum, a group of Christian leaders, today released a list of 180 names of girls who were taken by Boko Haram.
It has demanded 50 million naira (£187,000) compensation for each girl once they are rescued.